SCLC, civil rights leaders push for MLK statue at state capitol

Members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference are petitioning for a statue to be erected of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on the steps of the state Capitol.

The SCLC held a rally Friday at the Capitol to announce legislation that would allow for a statue of King to replace that of Tom Watson, which was relocated last year.

State Rep. Tyrone Brooks is leading the effort in the Legislature and has filed a bill, House Bill 706, in advance of Monday's opening of the upcoming session.

“I know we are a little late, but it’s never too late to do the right thing,” said Brooks, D-Atlanta.

Sen. Gail Davenport will be the Senate sponsor, Brooks said.

The Rev. Joseph Lowery, a civil rights icon and former SCLC president, said the statue of one of Georgia’s most noted sons should have been erected long ago.

“I would urge the governor to take advantage of this opportunity, not to wait until somebody’s else is governor,” Lowery said during the announcement Friday. “There is no comparison to what Martin Luther King has meant to Georgia.”

SCLC President Emeritus and CEO Charles Steele emphasized the importance of the statue as a reminder of King’s legacy of work on behalf of the poor at the same time the organization renews its poor people’s campaign.

Brooks plans to talk with legislative leaders and Gov. Nathan Deal about the plan next week. He has also notified Martin Luther King III about the bill. The SCLC plans to fully fund the statue and not seek state funds, Steele said.

In November, crews removed from the Capitol steps the statue of former state lawmaker Tom Watson, a onetime populist turned white supremacist who vilified blacks, Catholics and Jews. Deal approved of the statue's relocation to a park across the street from the Capitol but said the change was due to the deterioration of the steps.